Life & Soul

A day to reflect on the wonder of baptism

The Baptism of Christ, by Francesco Albani (1578–1660)

The Baptism of the Lord
Is 42:1-4 & 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17 (Year A)

As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’ ”

St Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan is the joyful proclamation of Christ’s identity as the promised Messiah. Here Jesus was acknowledged as the beloved Son of the Father, resting always in his love. As such he was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s promised servant, the chosen one in whom the Father delights. The Spirit that descended on Jesus further identified him with Isaiah’s servant, bringing true justice to the nations. He would neither waver nor be crushed.

He would become as a light to the nations.

As those born into a sinful humanity, our own baptism differed from that of Jesus. Ours was a baptism for the remission of sin, a liberation from sin’s power over frail humanity. In all other respects the baptism of Jesus highlights everything that we have become through Christ’s death and resurrection. With Jesus we have been called and acknowledged as “beloved of the Father”. With Isaiah’s servant, the Father has called us, taken us by the hand and formed us, enabling us, in our turn, to become lights in the darkness. Through and in Jesus, we have received the Spirit.

As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, let us reflect on the wonder of our own baptism. All that lay hidden in the child born at Bethlehem was to be revealed over a lifetime. So it is with ourselves. All that we became on the day of our baptism is revealed day by day. Like Jesus at his baptism, we are held in the love of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We do not travel alone.

The Acts of the Apostles chronicle the journey of a people brought to life in the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The baptism of Cornelius, a Roman outsider, was marked by Peter as an important stage in this journey: “The truth, I have now come to realise, is that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

The love shared with us at baptism is without limit. May our lives be lived in an unlimited generosity of spirit.